When people think of the masterpieces of art, painters such as Gauguin or Picasso might spring to mind. But thousands of years before these modern masters put brush to canvas, artists from all over the ancient world, from France to Egypt to South America, created a trove of masterpieces—artwork stunning for its opulence, its realism, its utility, and its visual drama.
Art is one of the highest forms of human expression, and studying the history of ancient art, as with studying later works, gives us a way to more fully understand ourselves today. A comparative look at the masterpieces of the ancient world reveals a marvelous diversity of styles, themes, subjects, and media, but it also offers us a glimpse of the universal truths and values of humanity across the ages. Even among radically different cultures, you still see common themes—including expressions of rulership, fertility, and religion and spirituality.